January 17, 2021

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5 credit card offers to take advantage of right now if you want to take a big trip when the pandemic ends

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This article is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. It has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the issuers listed. Some of the offers you see on the page are from our partners like Citi and American Express, but our coverage is always independent. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page.

The ongoing pandemic has put travel mostly off-limits, which is frustrating for avid adventure-seekers and those who just want to get away from home. Fortunately, the pandemic will eventually end, and we will once again be able to book a flight to almost anywhere at the drop of a hat. It may just be a while before we get there.

Maybe you can’t travel right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start earning points and miles for later on. If you start planning early and begin earning points you can use for travel in 2021 or 2022, the trip of your dreams could become a reality.

If you want to get out of dodge once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, here are the five top travel credit card offers to consider right now. 

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Annual Fee

$550

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Credit Score

Excellent

Editor’s Rating

Featured Reward

75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening

Intro APR

N/A

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
    • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
    • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
    • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $550 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott
    • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
    Cons
    • Bonus categories leave something to be desired
    • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards

    Read Our ReviewRead Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Best for travel perks: American Express Platinum

    The Platinum Card® from American Express currently has a limited-time welcome bonus of 75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening. New cardholders can also earn 10x Amex Membership Rewards points on the first $15,000 spent at US supermarkets and US gas stations in the first six months of account opening (then 1x). That means you can earn up to an extra 150,000 points within six months of opening your new card, and that’s on top of the welcome bonus offer.

    A $550 annual fee (See Rates) applies, but you also get lots of valuable benefits, including up to $200 in airline fee credit per year, up to $200 in Uber credits per year, up to $100 in Saks Fifth Avenue credits per year, a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, global airport lounge access, and hotel elite status with Marriott and Hilton.

    The Platinum Card earns 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (after January 1, 2021, on up to $500,000 in purchases each year), 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, and 1x points on all other purchases.

    Amex Membership Rewards points don’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. So when you’re ready to hit the road again, you can transfer them to Amex airline and hotel partners like Delta and Hilton, or use them to book hotels, airfare, and other travel through Amex Travel.

    There are plenty of non-travel options for using your Amex points, too, including redeeming them for merchandise, gift cards, statement credits, and charitable donations.  

    Annual Fee

    None

    Regular APR

    14.99% – 23.74%

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Editor’s Rating

    Featured Reward

    $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening

    Intro APR

    0% for the first 15 billing cycles

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
    • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
    • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
    • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
    • No annual fee.
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 – 23.74%.
    • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
    Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Generous bonus cash-back categories
    • Great welcome bonus
    Cons
    • Booking through Ultimate Rewards portal can restrict outside earning potential
    • Varying percentages and rotating calendar categories require extra attention
    • 3% foreign transaction fees

    Best with no annual fee: Chase Freedom Flex

    If you don’t want to pay an annual fee to earn rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is an excellent choice. You’ll earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening, plus, for a limited time, you can also earn 5% cash back (5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) at grocery stores on up to $12,000 in purchases for the first year.

    If you’ve been considering the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you should apply soon, because the 5x grocery store bonus ends on January 13, 2021.

    With the Chase Freedom Flex℠, you’ll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating quarterly bonus categories (then 1%) when you activate, 5% back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on drugstore and dining purchases, and 1% back on everything else. 

    As long as you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card open and in good standing, your points won’t expire. When it’s time to redeem your rewards for travel, you can use points to book travel through the Chase portal, or for statement credits to cover any travel purchase you make to your card.

    If you also have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to one of these cards from your Chase Freedom Flex℠, then transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners, like United Airlines and Hyatt.

    Annual Fee

    $99

    Regular APR

    15.99% – 22.99% Variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Editor’s Rating

    Featured Reward

    80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months)

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.
    • Earn 5 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases. Earn between 12/1/2020 and 3/31/2021 on up to $2,000 spent per month.
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all other Southwest® purchases.
    • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary each year.
    • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • No foreign transaction fees.
    • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
    • Your points never expire, a benefit of the Rapid Rewards® program.
    Pros
    • You get 6,000 points each year after anniversary
    • You can earn Tier-Qualifying Points toward Southwest elite status for spending on the card
    Cons
    • Only offers bonus points on Southwest purchases

    Read Our ReviewRead Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Best for airline miles that won’t expire: Southwest personal cards

    If you’re not sure when you’ll travel again, it’s important to earn rewards that won’t expire. With some loyalty programs, you’ll forfeit your points if you don’t have qualifying activity in your account in a specified time frame, but you don’t have to worry about expiration with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

    It’s a good time to consider any of the Chase Southwest personal cards, because all three are offering record-high welcome bonuses for a limited time. With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, you’ll earn 80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months).

    What’s even better is that these welcome bonuses alone can get you more than halfway to earning the Southwest Companion Pass. When you have the Companion Pass, you can bring a designated companion along with you for just the cost of taxes as fees (about $6 one-way on domestic flights) — whether you’re flying on a paid or award ticket.

    The timing of these offers is perfect for earning the Companion Pass early in 2021 — that way, you can enjoy nearly 2-for-1 travel for close to two years. Even if you don’t get around to using your Companion Pass until later in 2021 or 2022, it’s still an excellent deal. 

    Annual Fee

    $95

    Regular APR

    15.99%-22.99% Variable

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Editor’s Rating
    Featured Reward

    60,000 points

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
    • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
    • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
    • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
    • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
    Pros
    • High sign-up bonus starts you off with lots of points
    • Strong travel coverage
    Cons
    • Doesn’t offer a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit or any other statement credit benefits

    Read Our ReviewRead Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Best for flexible travel redemptions: Chase Sapphire Preferred

    If you’re interested in flexible travel rewards but you’re not sure where you want to go, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is always a good choice. You’ll earn 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening, plus 2x points on travel and dining purchases and 1x points on everything else you buy.

    Rewards enthusiasts love the Chase Ultimate Rewards program because there are so many ways to redeem points. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and get 25% more in value (1.25 cents per point). You can also transfer your points to Chase airline and hotel partners, which include Southwest, United, Hyatt, Marriott, and more. 

    The same 25% bonus value applies to redemptions through the Chase Pay Yourself Back program when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. For a limited time, you can cash in your points for statement credits toward grocery store, dining, and home-improvement store purchases, as well as eligible charity donations.

    Annual Fee

    $95

    Regular APR

    15.99%–20.99% variable APR

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Editor’s Rating

    Featured Reward

    100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

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  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
    • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
    • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don’t expire as long as your account is open
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Employee cards at no additional cost
    • $95 Annual Fee
    Pros
    • High sign-up bonus
    • Offers 3x bonus points on several spending categories, including travel and advertising purchases
    • Includes comprehensive travel coverage
    Cons
    • Welcome bonus has a very high minimum spending requirement

    Read Our ReviewRead Our Review A looong arrow, pointing right

    Best for small businesses: Ink Business Preferred 

    If you’re a small-business owner or you have a side hustle that brings in an income, you can also consider getting a small-business credit card. The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a lucrative option for travel rewards right now, because you can earn 100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 

    As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, points from the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card are worth 1.25 cents each toward travel booked through the Chase portal, and you can transfer them to airline and hotel partners. 

    The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card earns 3x points on the first $150,000 you spend each year on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising with select social media sites and search engines (then 1x points), as well as 1x points on other purchases. 

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